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Unions Wrote Radical Employment Bill

Release Richard Prebble

At 4.30pm on the Thursday before Easter, the government dropped an enormous quantity of documents on the Employment Relations Bill at our office.

ACT had requested these documents under the Official Information Act. This dump immediately prior to Easter was designed to avoid media scrutiny. Margaret Wilson’s staff deliberately kept the documents from a number of Press Gallery journalists.

As a surreptitious act, it backfired. The documents revealed how much power the trade unions have over the coalition and this bill.

As ACT’s Letter From Wellington has pointed out, this bill goes much further than either of the Labour or Alliance manifestos.

The documents reveal a secret meeting with “Labour Party interest groups” on December 22 1999. The meeting decided to abolish the Employment Tribunal, to limit the role of the Court of Appeal (a body the unions do not like) and the introduction of the mediation/arbitration model – all of which is contrary to their election promises.

The meeting minutes make it clear what the new law is designed to do to;

 “Rebuilding collectivism through the promotion of unionism”  “De-legalisation of employment relations to assist unions to function more effectively”

The government has suppressed who attended the meeting but ACT understands that the trade unionists Mike Smith of the Engineers Union and Darien Fenton of the Service Workers’ Union were at the meeting dictating the policy.

The documents make it clear that Laila Harre’s claim to have been responsible for the changes to the bill is false – Labour Party affiliated unions wrote this bill.

Statistics just released show there were 32 work stoppages in the 1999 calendar year. This number is the lowest recorded in a calendar year since 1935. This bill will reverse this trend and destroy the competitiveness of many businesses in New Zealand.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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